County sets record for poor air quality days |

County sets record for poor air quality days

Western Nevada county has exceeded federal air quality standards a record 28 times this year, mostly in the five weeks since lightning strikes ignited thousands of fires in Northern California that burned for days.

“June had three times as many days (exceeding federal air quality standards) as normal, and that’s primarily because of the smoke, and we still have August and September to go,” Joe Fish of the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District said Monday.

Fish said the county exceeded federal levels nine times in 2007, 24 times in 2006, 20 times in 2005 and 14 times in 2004. The measurements are recorded in Grass Valley.

On Saturday, the area exceeded the air quality standards for the 28th time.

“We could easily get 10 to 15 more days this year,” Fish said. “That wouldn’t surprise me at all.”

Smoke, emissions, hot summer days, hills and valleys all play a role in making the conditions ripe for poor air quality.

“We have perfect weather and topography for air pollution,” he said of this area.

Eastern Nevada County has never seen a day when pollution exceeded air quality standards.

It’s been a different story in western Nevada County, which was shrouded in smoke for weeks due to fires in Butte, Placer and Nevada counties that started with a lightning storm on the night of June 21.

According to figures supplied by Fish, the air quality reached the hazardous level on June 24 when a reading of 309 was recorded. The second highest reading occurred on June 26 when the air quality index was 299, which is when the air is considered “very unhealthy.”

Overall, western Nevada County has experienced four “very unhealthy” days and nine “unhealthy” days since June 21. On those days, residents are encouraged to limit their outdoor activities or stay indoors.

If you can see or smell smoke, pollution is at an unhealthy level, he has said.

To contact Staff Writer Pat Butler, e-mail or call 477-4239.

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